Cinnabar is often used to describe a Chinese style of carved, vermilion-colored lacquer. However, cinnabar is actually the name of a red mineral, a form of mercury(II) sulfide, used to dye the lacquer. While most cinnabar objects are a deep scarlet hue, other lacquer colors can be achieved with different minerals, such as carbon for black and orpiment for yellow.

Though Chinese lacquerware had been produced since the 3rd century BC, carved lacquer was first introduced around the 14th century during the Ming dynasty. Lacquer was traditionally made using the resin or sap of the Toxicodendron vernicifluum family of trees found in southern China. Many successive layers of lacquer would be applied to a base structure, which was often made from wood, until the surface could be carved into complex geometric or figural forms.

Red quickly became the preferred color for lacquerware carvings, in part because the color has long been associated with good fortune in China. For the most elaborate cinnabar pieces, various colors of lacquer would be applied below its red surface layers, adding depth to a finished carving. While the original mercury-based pigment was toxic to humans, more modern cinnabar jewelry uses a resin-based polymer instead.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum

You can get happily lost searching through the 10,000 or so objects on the Asian Art Museum's website. For example,… [read review or visit site]

Gotheborg.com

Gotheborg.com

Jan-Erik Nilsson's extensive reference on antique Chinese porcelain. Jam-packed with information (e.g. on porcelain… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Chinese Red Cinnabar 40 Hand Carved Beads Sterling Silver Clasp 925Fine Museum Quality Antique Chinese Cinnabar Twin Dragon Octagonal Signed BoxVintage Chinese Silver Coral Carved Cinnabar Cloisonne Dragon Pendant Necklace Vintage Chinese Silver Carved Red Cinnabar Cloisonne Necklace And Earrings SetEstee Lauder Cinnabar Vintage Fragrance, 2 Oz. Full BottleVintage Chinese Enameled Silver Carved Red Cinnabar Necklace Gold Gilt ClaspOld Chinese Carved Cinnabar Red Lacquer Covered Box Jade As IsChinese Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Vase Culture Revolution Scene 2nd Half 20th CAntique Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer Hinged Box With Carved Monks LandscapeChina,chinese Cinnabar Old Chinese Vese 11 CmAntique C1900 Chinese Carved Cinnabar Red Lacquer Filigree Silver Bead NecklaceAntique Chinese White Cinnabar Carved Lacquer Box Floral Chinese Red Cinnabar Carved Ginger Or Tea Jar Container On StandAntique Carved Scene Cinnabar Lacquer Box W/ Sauvastika Flyfot Master & StudentOld Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer Carved Jewelry Box Cosmetic Jar Dragon Qing DynastyChinese Exquisite Cinnabar Hand Carved Guanyin Statue Pc04881041 / Vintage Signed Chinese Cinnabar ? Snuff Bottle With Ornate Carved DesignBeautiful Vintage Carved Cinnabar Hand Knotted Necklace 34" Long 45 Grams Nice!Vintage Cinnabar Carved Bangle BraceletVintage Estate Red Lotus Carved Asian Cinnabar Beads Cloisonne Spacer NecklaceAntique Old Chinese Cinnabar Lacquer Carved Bowl Statue 4 Dragons Qing DynastyAntique 19th C Chinese Qing Dynasty Carved Cinnabar Lacquer Snuff Bottle Vintage Chinese Cinnabar Black Red Cutout Roses Cabinet Vase Blue InsideChinese Red Cinnabar Carved Vase On StandVintage Carved Cinnabar? Dragon BraceletVintage Carved Cinnabar? Flower Bracelet19c Chinese Cinnabar Lacquerware Dragon Handle Covered Urn W/ Teak Stand No ResFine Old Chinese Red Cinnabar Pagoda & Figures Relief Decorated Paste Wax BoxVintage Chinese Cinnabar Carved Necklace With Onyx/jet Faceted Glass Beads!Lot Of 3 Older Chinese Sterling Silver Carved Stone Cinnabar Adjustable RingsVintage Round Cinnabar Cover Vintage Hand Carved Red Lacquer Ornate Cinnabar Enamel Chinese Vase 6" Nice #2Grandmas Estate Beautiful Oriental Cinnabar NecklaceVintage Chinese Carved Cinnabar Red Lacquer & Blue Enamel + Cloisonne VaseVintage Hand Carved Red Lacquer Ornate Cinnabar Enamel Chinese Vase 6" NiceChinese Exquisite Hand-carved Character Landscape Carving Cinnabar Ink BlockChinese Collection Cinnabar Hand Carved Dragon&gate Tower Statue Xz55851*14 Mm Antique Dzi Agate Old Cinnabar 5 Eyes Bead From Tibet *free Shipping*Chinese Collection Cinnabar Hand Carved Old Man&pine W Guangxu Statue Xz560Chinese Collection Cinnabar Hand Carved Children W Qianlong Mark Statue Xz557Chinese Collection Cinnabar Hand Carved Old Man&pine W Guangxu Statue Xz559 Chinese Rare Decor Red Cinnabar Guanyin Long NecklaceChinese Rare Decor Red Cinnabar Guan Yin Long Necklace StretchChinese Rare Decor Red Cinnabar Guan Yin Long Necklace StretchCollectible Handwork Cinnabar Carve Gracious Buddha Auspicious Necklace